Community Ecology


, Volume 151, Issue 2, pp 313-321

First online:

Stream insect occupancy-frequency patterns and metapopulation structure

  • T. HeatherlyAffiliated withDepartment of Zoology and Center for Ecology, Southern Illinois University Email author 
  • , M. R. WhilesAffiliated withDepartment of Zoology and Center for Ecology, Southern Illinois University
  • , D. J. GibsonAffiliated withDepartment of Plant Biology and Center for Ecology, Southern Illinois University
  • , S. L. CollinsAffiliated withDepartment of Biology, University of New Mexico
  • , A. D. HurynAffiliated withAquatic Biology Program, Department of Biological Sciences, University of Alabama
  • , J. K. JacksonAffiliated withStroud Water Research Center
  • , M. A. PalmerAffiliated withDepartment of Entomology, University of Maryland

Rent the article at a discount

Rent now

* Final gross prices may vary according to local VAT.

Get Access


An understanding of the distribution patterns of organisms and the underlying factors is a fundamental goal of ecology. One commonly applied approach to visualize these is the analysis of occupancy-frequency patterns. We used data sets describing stream insect distributions from different regions of North America to analyze occupancy-frequency patterns and assess the effects of spatial scale, sampling intensity, and taxonomic resolution on these patterns. Distributions were dominated by satellite taxa (those occurring in ≤10% of sites), whereas the occurrence of core taxa (occurring in ≥90% of sites) determined the overall modality of occupancy-frequency patterns. The proportions of satellite taxa increased with spatial scale and showed positive relationships with sampling intensity (r 2=0.74–0.96). Furthermore, analyses of data sets from New York (USA) showed that generic-level assessments underestimated the satellite class and occasionally shifted occupancy-frequency distributions from unimodal to bimodal. Our results indicate that, regardless of species- or generic-level taxonomy, stream insect communities are characterized by satellite species and that the proportion of satellite species increases with spatial scale and sampling intensity. Thus, niche-based models of occupancy-frequency patterns better characterize stream insect communities than metapopulation models such as the core-satellite species hypothesis.


Aquatic insect Core-satellite Distribution Sampling intensity Spatial scale